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Supreme Court to hear cases by phone through remainder of current session

The public information office said the argument sessions scheduled for later this month and on May 4 will be held telephonically in keeping with Covid-19 public health guidance.

Under usual court tradition, oral arguments would not resume until next October, and there is no word yet whether the nine justices will hold hearings for their 2021-22 term by teleconference or in their grand courtroom.

For the current term, the justices will continue issuing decisions through late June or early July. Among the cases already argued and awaiting rulings are those testing the fate of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare; one involving a clash between gay rights and religious interests in foster care; and, argued just last month, a test of NCAA compensation restrictions on college athletes.

The justices have been fully vaccinated for weeks and are taking precautions when they meet in their columned building across from the Capitol. it would be difficult to know whether lawyers who arrive from across the country to present cases would be similarly vaccinated and protected from the virus.

The justices have not conducted arguments in their courtroom since March 2020, when the pandemic seized the country. They first tried the teleconference alternative last May.

The format lacks the lively and substantive exchanges that can occur in the courtroom. But the teleconference format has been accompanied by livestreaming, allowing people across the country to hear for the first time — as it happens — America’s highest court at work.

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